Here’s the reality: transitioning to organic farming is still a challenge for many indoor farms. We’ve spoken to countless farms that are working hard to grow sustainably but aren’t able to secure the much-desired USDA Organic Certification. With issues ranging from a complicated certification process, and of course, the exorbitant financial expenses to apply for an maintain the certification, indoor farms shouldn’t stop their sustainable farming efforts, especially when there are alternative ways to build customer trust without the certification.
1. Provide details about your farming process
Customers want to know the details without being overwhelmed. The question though is what do my customers want to know about?
- Step 1: Gather up-to-date data, if you haven’t already. Run polls on your social media. Ask them in-person. Send surveys via email. Use all of this information to determine what you should talk about more when engaging with customers, and which sections require less attention. Provide as many specifics about your production method from end-to-end. Share photos and videos of processes which aren’t private and confidential.
- Step 2: Wherever possible, highlight the traceability of inputs used in production. This is where technology like blockchain could come in handy, such as Ripe.io which tracks the journey of food, from seed to sale, offering consumer satisfaction that they are receiving the freshest, best product possible. Remember, transparency is paramount to developing trust.
2. Be selective about partnerships
While your farm may not be at a stage where organic certification is an option, you can however work closely with partners that either have the organic certification or have other forms of recognition that are aligned with ethical and sustainable business practices. Take for example your seeds. Are they from an organic-certified provider? Or what about the inputs or nutrients that you use? Are they synthetic mineral salts which are being shipped from across oceans just to get to the US or are they being sourced from local companies which utilize resources in ways that reduce the carbon footprint instead of adding to it? Are any of your suppliers B-Certified?
Every single step that you take to show that you’re working with companies that are equally as invested in the same principles behind growing organically, you tell your customers that you’re not just working on this alone but also with others in in the community with the same mindset. Organic farming doesn’t exist in a bubble. For it to really succeed, all players in the value chain need to be involved – and if you’re setting that up already, that’s a powerful story to tell.
"Organic farming doesn’t exist in a bubble. For it to really succeed, all players in the value chain need to be involved – and if you’re setting that up already, that’s a powerful story to tell."
3. Define what “healthy” means to your farm
While the definition of “healthy” isn’t straightforward for everyone, showing that you’re taking the right steps to ensure food safety is being taken seriously is definitely important to the majority of organic consumers. Decide on a definition for your farm on what “healthy” looks like, and then talk about it. Are we talking increased vitamins or antioxidants? Lack of pesticide residues, heavy metals, nitrates?
"Decide on a definition for your farm on what “healthy” looks like, and then talk about it. Are we talking increased vitamins or antioxidants? Lack of pesticide residues, heavy metals, nitrates?"
To take it one step further, perhaps consider showing that you’re carrying out research and development work behind the scenes. Are there any studies that you’ve been tracking that you can talk about? Lastly and importantly, to show that food safety is a priority, inform customers when there are any changes to your process that’s in line with the most up-to-date guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP).
By Riyana Razalee